‘Study’ By Online Music Licensing Org – File-sharing Makes Pop Music More Popular

Does file-sharing help make pop music popular? That debate has been going on for years, but a study appears to have sided with those that believe that file-sharing is helping to feed the popularity of the copyright industries popular signed acts. Of course, it’s less surprising when the source of the study sells online music subscription services for music.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

The report is currently being highlighted on the BBC. the study was published by PRS for Music, an industry body.

What may be something some would find interesting is the fact that the study suggested that there was little evidence to support the idea that file-sharing helped unsigned and new bands find an audience, but at the end of the article, the study did find that people who downloaded music online for free were more likely to get music that they would not otherwise have listened to while on an authorized music store, this was not the case. A hint toward something? Perhaps.

The study also noted that the major record labels should concentrate more on creating business models around marketing music through file-sharing – something they have, thus far, refused to do. This is because file-sharing closely mirrors legitimate music stores. Given that there is so much music available today, users do not have time to scan through and pick music they like and tend to stick to what they know through incumbent marketing techniques like radio and TV. All this, of course, according to this “study”.

The article makes no mention of sites like SoundClick, Magnatune or Jamendo – sites that help users find content not promoted through the multi-million dollar methods pushed by the major record labels. It’s unclear from the article how the study was conducted. Was it monitoring just BitTorrent or all file-sharing apps? Plenty of questions about a wide topic with few details.

So, why has this organization released such a study at all? A little research has revealed that PRS for Music has recently posted a news release talking about a new online subscription fee system:

Following extensive consultation with the music industry, PRS for Music is pleased to announce the release of its new Online Music Licences, which will replace the Joint Online Licence fully by the end of June 2009.

The licences are being released in two stages — the first stage, available from today, covers the rates charged for download and subscription services.

The second stage covers streaming services and will be released shortly following further consultation by PRS for Music and its digital licensees.

Maybe it’s just one of their services they offer? Check out their About page:

PRS for Music is home to the world’s best music writers, composers and publishers. Formed as The MCPS-PRS Alliance in 1997 with the PRS for Music brand adopted in 2009, the organisation brings together two royalty collection societies; MCPS and PRS. We exist to collect and pay royalties to our members when their music is exploited in one of a number of ways — when it is recorded onto any format and distributed to the public, performed or played in public, broadcast or made publicly available online.

PRS for Music is one of the world’s most efficient combined rights collecting operations. Offering its members more money, more often, at less cost and its customers the most efficient means by which they can use music.

So, why are there these obscure and cryptic claims about file-sharing? It makes much more sense when one discovers what the company is selling in the first place. Effectively, the BBC seems to have published a thinly veiled marketing tactic by the company. That fact doesn’t seem to have quite made it onto the final publication of the article in question.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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